Brownbook is a clever new local business search directory which combines wiki-like free-for-all editing with a bunch of useful features like community ratings and reviews. It’s artfully Web 2.0 as well, with lots of clever stuff like tags, Google mashed maps and even a Twitter This button. Gosh.
The two main features which make it stand out though, are the Wiki page editing functionality, which means anyone can add, annotate or change a listing, and the fact that contributors can actually earn money for working on the site. The earnings accrue from the last contribution you made to a particular listing, and it delivers continued revenues over time rather than just a one-off payment, which is an interesting twist.
Companies get a free simple listing, and can pay $22.00 for a more expansive one with photos and stuff. For a one-off fee of $98.00 they can even create a full website with unlimited pages and media, which is pretty cool.
It’s a noble effort all round, and a lot of thought and careful work has clearly gone into the whole enterprise. At the end of the day, however, a search engine lives or dies on its results database and although the company claims over 2 million businesses listed in the UK, it feels sparse. Wonders of wonders, however, is the fact that the site is also geared towards international users and so there’s a more respectable 22 million businesses listed in the USA and even 5 (!) in Sweden. That’s a great start, and should encourage users to step forward as the whole thing gains traction globally.
Listing your business is free, and to be honest I can see absolutely no reason why businesses wouldn’t want to list themselves here. Or be listed by 3rd party agents on a commission. There’s no shortage of competition in the business search market of course, Yelp.com and Yell.com come to mind immediately to name just a couple, but the excellent flexibility of using Wiki tech to allow anyone to update and add stuff is just about unique, and very well implemented on Brownbook. Seven out of 10 small businesses still don’t have a web presence, this gives them the chance to remedy that problem quickly and easily.
Overall I’m very impressed with the quality of the site and the depth of features for both users and businesses. The only thing missing is the kind of Wikipedian levels of content that we’ve come to expect from our search engines, but for a service that only launched 11 months ago, they’re doing good. Definitely one to watch (if only to see if they get bought soon!)
Brownbook.net is the free local business directory that anyone can edit. We’re building a global business directory and anyone can participate. You can add business listings, update them, and review businesses free and instantly. It’s an ambitious project and one that you can contribute to. If you own a business you can claim your business listing and promote it in Brownbook.net with additional text, photos and videos, plus you get alerted any time someone reviews your business. Your listing in Brownbook.net helps your website’s ranking on the major search engines too, so you’ll get found more, not just in Brownbook.net but all over the web.